Paul Seddon 20th Oct 1940 – 3rd Nov 2022
- Monday 28th November 2022
Paul had an active and adventurous life. He was a competent climber, caver and skier and, amongst other things, helped to provide a safer environment for climbers, cavers and workers at height. He was awarded an OBE in 2004 for services to the Industrial Rope Access Industry.
He started climbing around 1955 and teamed up with other young lads from Saddleworth, soon climbing many new routes there and featuring on the cover of the 1965 BMC Saddleworth – Chew Guidebook. In 2012, Paul’s superb route, Trinnacle West, was on the cover of the BMC guide: Over the Moors. Paul was also a founder member of the Rimmon Mountaineering Club of which he became Vice President and then President, climbing in the Alps and Dolomites and on The Ben and Cairngorms in winter. In the summer of 1963, Paul was in Romsdal, Norway with Brian Hodgkinson, where they made, amongst other climbs, an early ascent of the 1800m East Face of Kongen, a big route in its day.
He was married in 1967 and had two daughters Gretta (1970) and Diane (1972). Also in 1967, he started Parba Equipment making a range of alloy T-chocks and soon merging with Troll, started by two other Rimmon members, Alan Waterhouse and Tony Howard. To celebrate, Paul and Tony did the first ascent of The Merger at Great Rocks in Chee Dale (now sadly lost to quarrying). With Paul’s input, Troll continued to revolutionise climbing equipment adding hexagon chocks, sewn tape slings and other items including the Troll Mk2 waist belt based on the belts used by Tony and other Rimmon club climbers on the British Ascent of Norway’s infamous Troll Wall in 1965. In 1970, Paul was very much involved with the creation of The Whillans Harness for the successful British Annapurna Expedition – another Troll first and the first-ever climber’s sit harness.
By 1975, Paul was on BMC/UIAA committees and, to conform to UIAA requirements, Troll designed the first British Body Harness. Soon after, Paul also became the Quality Director at Troll and as such was involved in the design of the Troll Mk5 sit harness, which, with waist and legs connected by a belay loop, became the template for virtually every climbing sit harness ever since (see Climber Mag Jan-Feb 2022 for Paul and Tony Howard’s article, ‘The Origins of the Climbing Sit Harness’.)
Also in 1975, Paul started caving and quickly became a popular and frequent visitor to Bull Pot Farm and other clubs around the Dales, caving extensively with the Red Rose club and later with ULSA. He had made his reputation as a climber of considerable repute, but when he tried caving he took to it like a duck to water, although mud might be a better word to use as, by all accounts, he loved wallowing around in it underground. Troll’s yellow caving suit, designed by Paul, soon became ubiquitous. During a caving trip down PSM in France, he and his friends found a new series, the ‘Troll Toughie Series’ but were forced to leave it unfinished due to circumstances beyond their control – it would have become the world’s deepest cave. Paul told the story often, but always with a smile, a chuckle and no sense of rancour.
Around this time, Paul was also on climbing trips to Wyoming’s Wind River Range, Devil’s Tower and Grand Teton and to Mt Kenya. By the 1980s, he was on the British Standards Committee and also worked with IRATA International, UIAA, ISO, CEN and others. He was the first Chairman of the IRATA committee and Troll became the first climbing company to be awarded BS5750 for Quality Assurance. The Northern Limestone climbing guide, published in 1980 included more new routes by Paul and in 1998/99, Paul and Dave Brown joined Tony Howard and Di Taylor on their Survey for Adventure Tourism in Oman, which included cave exploration, some possibly new.
Paul’s competence, total unflappability and wonderful good humour made him a perfect companion on a caving expedition. He took part in eleven to various parts of the world, including Irian Jaya (West Papua), Java, China and Oman and, in 1984 to the Gouffre Berger in France where he established his reputation as a hard-working, competent team member. The friendships he made on that trip led to his invitation to be one of the civilian members of the 1986 Army Caving Expedition to Java, the first major caving expedition ever mounted by one of the Services. Paul was fond of telling about an incident underground when he heard a repeated tapping on his helmet, only to discover it was a highly poisonous snake striking at his head. He liked to suggest that resistance to snake bite should have been added to the helmet manufacturing standards.
His work on the development of harnesses and other equipment standards for health and safety regulations for all work-at-height professionals was as valuable for the climbing and caving communities as well as the burgeoning profession of rope access. He was a great support to those who, in the 80s, were pushing forward the practice of rope access and caver training. Along with Dave Elliott, Paul was an inspiration to cavers and aspirant rope access technicians alike. Without being conscious of it, many of us probably owe our well-being on ropes to his diligence which led to his OBE award.
Paul also began skiing in 1978, aged 38 and was soon given the nickname Sylvain Seddon. Being a climber Paul was confident in steep and tricky situations even if his skiing ability at the time did not match the terrain he often found himself in. He qualified as a BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) grade 3 ski instructor in 1987 and as an ESC ASSI (English Ski Council Artificial Ski Slope Instructor) in 1988. After qualifying, and until around 2000, he spent time in the winter season working for Interski in the Aosta Valley in Italy; this mostly involved coaching school and adult groups. He had a passion for introducing others to the sport he loved and this always continued. He became a BASI Life Member in 2012.
From 2000 to 2022 skiing continued to be Paul’s main passion and, now re-married, he shared it with his wife Alison. He took part in some great courses and trips with the Eagle Ski Club, guide-led adventures in France and the Dolomites and, whenever he could fit them in, holidays to the USA and Canada too. Paul also had forays into ski touring and telemarking, he loved the off-piste, challenging terrain and adventures. Always adventures – he would quote Bilbo Baggins ‘adventures make you late for dinner’ and this certainly happened from time to time!
Since retiring in 2018 Paul aimed to have up to 12 weeks of skiing in the winter season. In the summer months, he skied indoors at the Chill Factory, Manchester where he particularly enjoyed the challenge of the monthly mogul sessions. Paul’s last day skiing was on 20 April 2022, in Les Arcs, the same resort where his skiing started some 44 years previously.
Throughout his career, Paul was involved in a plethora of IRATA and other committees, which helped shape the health and safety regulations for all work-at-height professionals. Most notably he was the convenor of the IRATA International Code of Practice (ICOP) Development and Review Panel and chairman of the Height Safety Committee of the Safety Equipment Association (industrial safety). On many occasions, Paul has stated that his goal has been to make the workplace a safer environment for all workers at height, and in 2004 his work within the rope access industry was rewarded with an OBE. In the same year, Paul was made an honorary lifetime member of IRATA for his longstanding contribution. Paul retired from IRATA in 2018.
Paul also relished the challenge of long-distance walks and completed the Pennine Way and Offa’s Dyke on his own. He walked the Coast to Coast, the Dales Way and the Red Rose Way and other adventures happened on the Weardale Way, St Cuthbert’s Way and Glyndwr’s Way and on annual walking/climbing weekends which took place over many years with the Eagle Ski Club around Capel Curig and Langdale. He also had an eclectic taste in music but a passion for jazz. For over thirty years he enjoyed weekend jazz festivals: Marsden, Appleby, Titley, Llandudno, Hull, Scarborough and would go to local gigs with his climbing and skiing friend Dave Crilley, another jazz aficionado. He attended his final gig at Marsden Jazz Festival on 9th October 2022.
Paul died in Kirkwood hospice from Motor Neurone Disease which had been diagnosed only 11 weeks prior. He continued to lead an active life up until April 2022. Paul was married twice; to Barbara in 1967, with whom he has two daughters; and to Alison in 2013, who had been his partner since 1995. Paul leaves behind his wife Alison, his two children Gretta and Diane, two grandsons Ryan and Jack and his brother Philip – and a lot of good friends who have great memories of him.